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  • Daniel Botkin

Separation: Another Word for Holiness

SEPARATION VERSUS MINGLING

Leviticus 19:19 lists three Torah commandments that talk about separation versus mingling:

“Ye shall keep My statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.”

In Deuteronomy 22:9-12, these same three commandments are repeated in a somewhat modified form, and a fourth commandment is added, the commandment to wear fringes:

“Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled. Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together. Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together. Thou shalt make thee fringes upon the four quarters of thy vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself.”

All four of these commandments have a common theme, namely, separation and the avoidance of mingling: separation of seeds from seeds, separation of oxen from asses, separation of wool from linen, and separation of God’s people from unbelievers by wearing fringes.


SEPARATION OF SEEDS FROM SEEDS

There are differences of opinion about what exactly is meant by the commandment to not sow your fields and vineyards with “divers seeds” or “mingled seed.” Some people think it might be referring to not creating hybrid seeds through cross-pollination. Others think it refers to just keeping various crops in their own separate fields, and not planting, for example, a row of onions inside a field of melons.

Regardless of which view one takes in regards to the physical meaning of this commandment, the spiritual significance of the commandment is to avoid mingling by practicing separation. In other words, God’s covenant people are not to mingle (i.e., mix in, be blended together) with unbelievers. When some of the Jews married heathens, the princes told Ezra that the Israelites had “not separated themselves from the people of the lands” and had married heathens, “so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands” (Ezra 9:1f).

Thus not mingling different seeds in your field serves as a visible reminder throughout the growing season to keep yourself separate from unbelievers who might draw you away from the Lord.

This does not mean that we should be aloof and unfriendly toward unbelievers. On the contrary, we should be kind and friendly toward unbelievers, in the hope that they will become believers. We are commanded to let our light shine in this dark world. We live “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Ph’p 2:15). For unbelievers to see our light, we have to be in their midst, among them. But we must be cautious in our relationships with unbelievers. Our relationships with unbelievers should draw them closer to the Lord as we let our light shine. If a relationship with an unbeliever is drawing you away from the Lord and dimming your light, it’s time to separate yourself, at least until you are spiritually strong enough to not be spiritually weakened by that relationship.


SEPARATION OF OXEN FROM ASSES

The commandment to “not plow with an ox and an ass together” is seen by some commentators as an expression of God’s care for animals. Since an ox is much stronger than an ass, yoking the two together would make it difficult for the weaker animal to keep up with the stronger one.

While this observation is true, the spiritual significance of the commandment goes even further than this. Since an ox is kosher and an ass is not kosher, the prohibition against yoking the two together reinforces the prohibition against believers marrying unbelievers and thereby being yoked together with unbelievers.

Although I cannot prove it with absolute certainty, I believe Paul probably had this Torah commandment in mind when he wrote “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14). Paul used the Torah commandment “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn” to point out the importance of financially supporting elders, “especially they who labour in the word and doctrine [i.e., teaching]” (1 Tim. 5:17f). Therefore it is very likely that Paul had the prohibition against yoking an ox and an ass together when he wrote, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.”


SEPARATION OF WOOL FROM LINEN

Some people think the commandment to “not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together” forbids the wearing of any garment made with any kind of mixed fabrics. However, the commandment only forbids the wearing of sha’atnez, which is defined specifically as “woollen and linen together.”

The word “as” in the KJV might seem to suggest that wool and linen is just one example of a forbidden blend. However, the word as in the KJV is italicized because it is not in the Hebrew text. Much as I love the KJV, it can be somewhat misleading here. Neither the Bible nor the rabbis expand this commandment to include other blended fabrics, because sha’atnez simply means “woollen and linen together.”


Wool comes from animals and linen comes from a plant, so once again we see the theme of separation versus mingling. Keeping wool and linen separate on our garments, like keeping seeds separate in our fields and keeping our oxen and asses separate from each other, serves as a visible reminder to keep ourselves separate from the world. As James points out, one necessary ingredient of “pure religion and undefiled before God” is that a man “keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).


SEPARATION OF GOD’S COVENANT PEOPLE FROM THE WORLD

In Deuteronomy 22, the theme of separation versus mingling is not so obvious in the commandment to wear fringes. However, if we look at the same commandment in Numbers 15:37ff, where the command was first given, we see that the purpose of the fringes is to be a visible reminder to remember and obey God’s commandments, “and be holy to your God.” Being holy means being separate. Therefore the theme of separation is emphasized in the commandment to wear fringes, as well as it is in the other three commandments.

The commandment to wear fringes was given immediately after a man was stoned to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath. This execution by stoning for picking up sticks on the Sabbath was not Moses’ idea. It was commanded by God Himself. Right after this, in the very next verse, God gave the commandment to wear fringes. God explained that the fringes would be a visible reminder to obey His commandments. And those commandments obviously include the Sabbath commandment, because the man was executed for profaning the Sabbath. Here is the commandment:

“Speak unto the children of Israel and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue. And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a-whoring: That ye may remember, and do all My commandments, and be holy unto your God. I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God.”

God did not set the Hebrews free from Egyptian slavery so they could do whatever they wanted. The whole purpose of the fringes was to remind them to not seek after their own hearts and their own eyes. To seek whatever their own hearts and their own eyes desired was to “go a-whoring” in the eyes of God. And if we seek after the desires of our own hearts and our own eyes, we too will be viewed by God as an unfaithful bride who goes a-whoring.

We are set free from sin so we can seek after the desires of God’s heart, not the desires of our own heart. God’s desire is that we walk in holiness and not be mingled with the world around us.

It’s not always easy to be separate. Unless we are monks living in a hermitage away from society, we will be exposed to the defiling influences of this world. Although I suspect even monks in monasteries face temptations. (“Father, forgive me, for I have sinned. I coveted Brother Giovanni’s bread at dinner, because he got a thicker slice than I did.”) Our challenge is to live among sinful people in a sinful society and not let ourselves be mingled and mixed and blended in with the worldly people. One of God’s complaints against Ephraim, the ten tribes of the northern kingdom, was that they had blended in among the heathens:

“Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned” (Hos. 7:8).

If you don’t flip a pancake, it will be burnt on one side and raw on the other side. It will be good for nothing and will be thrown in the trash. A believer who blends in with Babylon will in like manner be good for nothing. He will have too much of the Lord to be of any use to the world, and too much of the world to be of any use to the Lord. He will be cast aside like a cake not turned.


SEPARATION AND SUFFERING

Maintaining our status as a separated people and refusing to be mingled with the world usually involves suffering. Sometimes the suffering comes in mild forms: being ostracized by friends and family because they think you are a weird religious fanatic; being excluded from participating in certain activities and events because they are scheduled on the Sabbath; being ridiculed and mocked for your belief in the Bible by unbelievers and by carnal Christians.

Sometimes the suffering comes in harsher forms: experiencing discrimination in the workplace because of your faith; being taken to court for refusing to do something that violates your conscience; being threatened with physical harm or even death, as the Maccabees were and as many Christians are in many countries today.

In his first epistle, Peter writes words to encourage believers who are suffering for their faith. He reminds us that we have an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance reserved for us in heaven, an inheritance “that fadeth not away” (1 Pet. 1:4). Peter lets us know we are kept in the faith not by our own limited human power; rather, we “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1:5). Therefore you can “greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations” (1:6). This “trial of your faith” is “much more precious than of gold that perisheth” (1:7).

Peter then writes about the glory of our salvation, a salvation that “the prophets have inquired and searched diligently,” a salvation that includes “things the angels desire to look into.” (See 1 Peter 1:8-12.)

Because we now have the privilege of experiencing mysteries that were formerly hidden from prophets and angels, you should “gird up the loins of your mind,” Peter says, and live “as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance, but as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [i.e., behavior], because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:13-16). Being holy requires separation, not mingling with the world.

Peter returns to the theme of separation in chapter two when he tells us to separate ourselves from some things: “laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings” (1 Pet. 2:1).

In the same chapter, Peter reminds us of our set-apart status with these words:

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light, which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (2:9f).

There are many more passages in the Bible that teach separation versus mingling with the world. The importance of separation rather than mingling is taught even in passages where the words separation and mingling do not appear.


SEPARATION AND PECULIARITY

We are called to be “a peculiar people,” Peter says. The word peculiar in this context means “special.” It does not mean “weird.” We are not called to be weirdos. However, if we refuse to blend in with the world and insist on living as a holy people, we will be viewed as weirdos by worldly unbelievers. And because the church today is so weak and carnal and compromised, even some Christians will think we are weird.

No normal person wants to be viewed as a weirdo, a kook, an oddball. Normal people do not want to be ridiculed and mocked and scoffed at by those around them. When you are surrounded by unbelievers, especially ones who are hostile to religious beliefs and are outspoken, it is a challenge to maintain your separated status. The temptation is to just mingle and blend in by doing what everyone else is doing. Everyone laughs at a dirty joke, so you laugh too. Everyone around you dresses immodestly, so you dress immodestly too, and just wear your modesty costume when you go to church. Someone expresses an opinion that contradicts the Bible, and you nod in agreement with everyone else. Everyone around you is “picking up sticks on the Sabbath” (or otherwise profaning the Sabbath), so you profane the Sabbath too. Everyone around you is eating unclean food, so you eat some too.

The Sabbath and dietary laws are not the most important of all God’s commandments, but among Christians they are certainly among the most neglected of God’s commandments. Furthermore, obeying the Sabbath and dietary laws sets us apart from the world and helps prevent us from mingling with the world system.

I do not brag about the fact that we keep the Sabbath and dietary laws. I do not even mention it to some people. But if someone invites me to an event that would require me to profane the Sabbath, or if someone offers me pork or shellfish, I might, as a courtesy to them, briefly and graciously explain why I cannot accept their invitation or their food. And of course if someone inquires about the details of our faith, I will eventually talk about the Sabbath and dietary laws, after making it clear that the primary focus of our faith is Jesus/Yeshua.

Separating the seventh day from the six working days, separating kosher food from non-kosher food, separating seeds from seeds, oxen from asses, wool from linen, and wearing fringes -- all these acts of separation reinforce the fact that we are a separated people and we are not to be mingled with the world system.

Refusing to mingle and blend in with the world usually brings suffering, because unredeemed worldlings do not like to be reminded that there is a God who will judge them for their sins in the afterlife. In America our persecution is mild compared to persecution in other countries. However, that could change. If persecution increases, what will we do? I love what David WIlkerson wrote in an old newsletter I have from 1989:

“What if we lose our jobs, our money, our houses or apartments? Then we will all go on Holy Ghost welfare and Jesus will be our social worker! Jesus said ‘Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.... Behold the fowls of the air... your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?’

“We will live as Israel did, on miracles and manna. We will lie down in peace, and our sleep will be sweet. We will become evangelists as did the Twelve and the early Church. We will share what we have with one another -- and it will be glorious!”

Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, is coming soon. The LORD said that this Feast is to be a reminder of how God took care of His people in the wilderness for forty years. David Wilkerson talks about those forty years in the concluding part of his 1989 newsletter:

“For 40 years our God kept hundreds of thousands of His people in the wilderness. During that expanse of time they had no jobs, no income, no stores, no malls, no cars, no houses or apartments, no bank accounts, no new clothes, no stocks, no air-conditioning, no heaters, no refrigerators or deep freezers, no ovens, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no stored-up food, no weapons, no mountain hideaways, no doctors, no hospitals, no medicine.

“They were constantly surrounded by snakes, wild animals, and ferocious enemies, continually subjected to extreme heat and cold and shortage of water -- and all they had for shelter were flimsy tents!

“Yet God carried them in His arms as little babes. Moses said, ‘For the Lord thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand: he knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the Lord thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing’ (Deuteronomy 2:7). And about our children, He has promised, ‘Your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in and they shall know the land’ (Numbers 14:31).”

The Prophet Daniel is a great example of someone who refused to blend in with Babylon. He refused to eat the king’s non-kosher meat, even though this could have gotten him killed. He refused to stop his custom of praying toward Jerusalem each day, even though it got him thrown into the den of lions, where God protected him.

Throughout his life, Daniel maintained his separated status. In the final chapter of his book, he writes about a final separation that will occur at the resurrection of the dead, when the righteous and the wicked will be forever separated from one another: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Dan. 12:2f).

Not all stars shine equally bright, and not all of us will shine equally bright in the resurrection. When Paul writes about the future resurrection of the dead, he reminds us of this truth:

“There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:41).

The measure of the glory that will be revealed in you in the age to come will be determined by what you do in this age. The more brightly you shine in this world, the more brightly you will shine for all eternity. Therefore do not let your light be dimmed by mingling with the world. Be ye separate and shine the light of the Lord in this dark world. Shine on!


| DB

 

Image: Psalm 24 by Daniel Botkin from his Psurrealistic Psalms Pseries on his art website: DanielBotkin.com.

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